During the reception for the Minnesota Summit I was thinking with a slight bit of smugness that I had worked my way to being completely past the PTSD portion of my trauma, but what I felt Saturday night took me right back there.
On Saturday evening I was briefly overwhelmed with the type of feelings which near the 1 year anniversary of my rape caused me to have what seemed to be an unexplainable crying jag.
Back then the trigger wasn't a specific date but the arrival of spring and students beginning the countdown to the end of the school year. That anticipation of summer was linked emotionally with my being raped. That same spring I almost died of alcohol poisoning. The need for relief from an overpowering physiological response made me not care about anything but relief from my inner pain. After that experience with alcohol poisoning, I coped by blocking thoughts and feelings to the point that at times I felt like I no longer had any deep emotions. That got me through some rough times but at a high cost.
I'm glad that I'm able to connect with all of who I am and therefore able again to truly connect with others, but that connection allows pain as well as joy.
On Saturday it was something that was no more threatening intrinsically than the coming of spring, but it tapped into feelings associated with the knowledge of potentially dangerous situations that most people either never think about or can tune out. It has been 35 years since I was raped, but the impact of that rape was able to swamp me.
This isn't helped by the continuing presence of victim blaming where not viewing every man who promises to respect your boundaries as a likely rapist is described as being not a victim of a rapist but a "victim of your own awful judgment" and where the actions of a rapist are minimized to the point where we need to defer to rapists before defining rape as rape.
Because this was a physiological response, logic and understanding couldn't make that response go away. However, because I now understand what is going on I have better means to cope with this response. I know that if the trigger repeats I will need to adjust my life to eliminate or reduce the trigger and that this need says nothing negative about me as a person.
This isn't running away or cowardice, it is self-care. This self-care can be limiting in ways that don't make sense to people who do not acknowledge or understand the lasting damage that can done by rape. As I look back at some of the decisions I made which at that time I labeled as irrational, I see they were rational and linked directly to my trauma.
I try to balance everything while being connected to my trauma, but there will be times when that is so very difficult. These are the times when I just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other until I get through the rough times.
This reality which many people continue to deny is why primary prevention of sexual harm is imperative to me. Nobody deserves this kind of trauma and it is not the consequence of wrongly assuming other people are not rapists any more than being hit head on is the consequence of assuming that trucks on the freeway won't cross the median and strike you head on.